Are 12-step groups like NA and MAT modalities exclusive of each other?
A physician who practices in MAT modalities recently made a blog entry about 12-step groups on which there was much passionate debate in the comments where a strong majority of MAT patients and advocates made the case that any mutual exclusivity between NA and MAT has been created by the rejection, scorn and judgement that many NA groups have shown towards patients whose recovery has been successful in large part because of their being patients in MAT programs. This physician seemed to defend the 12-step groups and try to say that the MAT patients were being critical and even compared many of us to the very folks who say that methadone doesn't work and is poison - without any evidence to support their argument.
It is hard for me to comprehend that a physician who treats MAT patients on a daily basis in both OTP and OBOT settings could be so "caught off guard" by the passionate opposition to MAT patients' involvement in 12-step groups that many patients and advocates expressed. I have personally known multiple patients, from all across the country (and the world), who have experienced similar rejection and accusations of "not being clean" due to their employing the use of maintenance medications in their recovery... And those stories, from wide and far, were again described in many of the comments on this blog. Let me say that I am for ALL treatment modalities, approaches, groups and anything else that offers help and hope, and I believe that ANYTHING that helps people on the road to recovery should be supported to the greatest extent possible. I personally attended several different NA groups in the hopes of offering and receiving support on the road to recovery before the rejection based solely on the fact that I am a methadone maintenance patient took its toll and led me to conclude that these particular meetings had the potential to do more harm to my recovery than they did the potential to help and aid me in strength along my journey. A proponent of 12-step groups recently wrote a stigma-filled editorial in my local paper criticizing methadone and buprenorphine therapies as "trading one set of chains for another" to which I felt compelled to respond with my own letter to the editor. This editorialist only further gives credence to my conclusions that any mutual exclusivity that exists between NA and MAT has been created by proponents of the 12-step groups themselves - not by MAT patients who have sought out support at these groups with open minds as they searched for tools to aid their recovery journey.
In reflecting on this issue further I decided the best thing to do was to go to NA World Services themselves with an open mind to find out what THEY say "officially" about the use of maintenance medications in treatment modalities. I went to the website of NA World Services and found this bulletin (#29) that was drafted by the Narcotics Anonymous World Services Board of Trustees titled Regarding Methadone and other Drug Replacement Programs which says, in part:
"Members on drug replacement programs such as methadone are encouraged to attend NA meetings. But, this raises the question: "Does NA have the right to limit members participation in meetings?" We believe so. While some groups choose to allow such members to share, it is also a common practice for NA groups to encourage these members (or any other addict who is still using), to participate only by listening and by talking with members after the meeting or during the break. This is not meant to alienate or embarrass; this is meant only to preserve an atmosphere of recovery in our meetings."
This makes it clear that those at the "top" of the NA organization believe that those in medication-assisted treatment programs ("replacement therapy") are "still using," that they do not want MAT patients to share at group meetings, and also suggests that if MAT patients do share they would damage the "atmosphere of recovery" at the meetings. Could it be anymore clear?
What do YOU think? As for me, I rest my case.